Tag Archives: Facebook

Facebook, obsession, murder

Facebook_2You have to love newspapers’ obsession with social media. Whether it’s the Twittering of Stephen Fry et al or the latest security breach involving Facebook, the news media are all over it – irrespective of whether their readers know the difference between a Tweet and a twat. 

This latest example from the Metro pushes a whole lot of buttons – murder, obsession, jealousy… and social media. Fantastic. But, of course, when you actually read the story, it kind of falls apart.

So – the paper pitches the idea that a Hayley Jones’s lover, Brian Lewis, stabbed and strangled her (or strangled and stabbed, depending on where you are in the story) because she “changed her status from ‘married’ to ‘single'” on Facebook, causing him to fly into a jealous rage. Oh the dangers of social media!

Uh, yeah. 

Actually, what happened was that she told him the relationship was over.

Aha, you cry, but at the same time she changed her status on Facebook to single. That must have hurt.

Yes. But although the couple did apparently argue about how long Jones was spending online, the most revealing statement in the story comes from prosecuting barrister Mark Evans. 

In court he said:

She was quite secretive about [her Facebook use], preventing Lewis from using the site and turning the computer off. It is quite clear that this rankled with him.

So. Let’s get this straight. She stopped him from using the site. That would be the site on which she changed her status. The news of which is supposed to have sent him into a murderous rage.

OK, so he might have seen the status update. But, you know, it’s not convincingly argued that he did, let alone that this is what lay behind the crime.

For God’s sake – there’s enough here to make a front page splash without twisting the story into something it’s not (or at least doesn’t seem to be).

The Metro could have made hay about Jones’s alleged internet obsession. And certainly there’s a story here about the fact that they had money worries after Lewis lost his job, and that he may have had a problem with Jones starting work herself. 

But a murder over mundane and concrete issues such as financial tension and a couple’s probable communication breakdown just isn’t as exciting to today’s journalism as a murder over someone’s Facebook status. 

Which this actually isn’t. A lesson that hardly any journalists seem to have learned: correlation is not causality.

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Where’s the advertising going? Facebook, apparently

Need a job in the media? It seems Facebook is the place to go, as founder Mark Zuckerberg aims to double the company’s headcount to 2,000

Of course, you’ll need to be an engineer or programmer, rather than, say, a journalist, which is the problem when advertising deserts its traditional media home for that new-fangled social networking thingy. 

Revenues are up 70% over last year, and the company seems to be doing well pulling in brand advertising that would otherwise go to media such as TV or magazines. (I know, I know. Facebook still isn’t making a profit. But it is sitting on a pile of cash and isn’t burning through it so fast.) 

The problem for those of us toiling in the media anthill is that Facebook’s content is created by its users, not by professional writers and editors. 

Not great news for those trying to develop a viable paid online model

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Facebook, teenagers, suicide

Apparently, social networking sites prevent teenagers from developing rounded relationships, makes them treat friendship as a commodity and helps drive them to suicide.

It seems that Archbishop of Westminster Vincent Nichols is not a big fan of SMS and email, either.

Friendship is not a commodity, friendship is something that is hard work and enduring when it’s right.

Well, yes. But I suspect this little outburst confuses symptom with cause. Any examination of the teenage high school experience (albeit perhaps mediated by Hollywood) reveals that teenagers often treat friendship as a commodity. Facebook and SMS just help them refine this a little.

Should we be worried? Well, as I’ve found, teenagers can be a bit obsessive about keeping up with their Facebook wall, but on the whole I’m not going to panic about it. After all, what are they going to be doing if they’re not sitting at home damaging themselves with excessive virtual community membership? Sitting in big gangs in the park drinking cider and getting into fights? Well – at least that’s real physical interaction.

It all reminds me a bit of the Seduction of the Innocent panic in the US in the 1950s – the adult world got into a lather about kids reading violent comics and scapegoated them, with mass comic book burnings and Senate sub-committee hearings.

Nowadays the sight of kids reading comic books is more likely to evoke feelings of nostalgia than a fear of social collapse. And in a few decades no doubt the same will be true for video games – another contemporary adult bête noir.

Meanwhile, let’s have a look at that dysfunctional teenage experience, with not a laptop in sight…

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Teenagers reject Twitter shock

Much media kerfuffle about the news that teenagers aren’t interested in Twitter. Well – crucially, that they’re not interested in using it from their mobile phone, which costs money.

The piece in question, from the Financial Times, reports on a research note from Morgan Stanley written by 15-year-old intern Matthew Robson. (The note is available via the FT’s Long Room site, which requires registration and vetting before you can get to it, sadly.)

Among other things, Matthew Ronson indicates that teenage media users hate advertising, finding it  “extremely annoying and pointless”.

They also can’t be bothered to read pages and pages of text, which is bad news for newspapers but, really, which we kind of knew already.

I was particularly interested by this:

Their time and money is spent instead on cinema, concerts and video game consoles which, he said, now double as a more attractive vehicle for chatting with friends than the phone.

This is another piece of, admittedly unscientific, evidence confirming my own suspicion that journalists are far behind the curve when it comes to understanding the rapidly evolving media world. 

These are teenagers. And they don’t use the phone

Well, actually teenagers still use the phone a lot. I know this. But I suspect that they are not wedded to the phone. Give them something else to use to chat to their mates – games consoles, Facebook, hyper-intelligent sunglasses – and they’ll use that. If it’s free. And convenient.

Not only does that make it difficult for us as journalist to reach teenagers with digital media when they are consumers, but it also makes it difficult for us to reach them as the subject of journalism.

I have taken issue before with the view that the only way to do your job as a journalist is to pick up the phone and call people. I’ll probably do it again.

But, really – it sounds so archaic to make prescriptions for journalism students like this when a whole generation is growing up for whom the old-style pick-up-a-receiver-and-chat phone conversation is just one in a range of communication options they choose. And not necessarily the most obvious, especially in future.

As for Twitter – it’s also important to realise that Twitter is beloved by journalists above all else – but doesn’t have so much traction with real people. 

It’s a great research tool, and is kind of useful for professional networking – and it’s kind of fun and easier to do than long-form blogging.

But Facebook, say, has much richer content and is much better for social networking. Which is why it’s more popular.

The blow for journalists is that, unlike Twitter, it’s a closed network. You only become someone’s Facebook friend by invitation (unless the network belongs to someone who works for MI5). 

This means Twitter is much more like old-style broadcast journalism. Which is why you read and hear so much about it from journalists, when its traction in the real world is probably much less.

[HT: Judith Townend]

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